Plans to amend Salt Spring’s land use bylaw to allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are soldiering on, and the community will have yet another chance to listen and be heard.
Salt Spring’s Local Trust Committee (LTC) is hosting a pair of open house events in early June to bring the public up-to-speed on Bylaw 530, a recently recategorized “minor project” that seeks to increase the housing stock by allowing ADUs on a number of properties across the island.
The new categorization is a little confusing, trustees admitted, but is meant to ensure an administrative slot in the project list for the long-considered bylaw.
“It’s because there’s major [projects] and there’s minor, and we’re allowed [room] to do a minor,” said LTC chair Tim Peterson at the May 18 LTC meeting. “If we make 530 ‘minor,’ we can work on it. I know it’s a little weird, but there we go.”
The first open house will take place Tuesday, June 6 from noon to 3 p.m. at the Salt Spring Island Public Library. The second is being held Saturday, June 10 from noon to 3 p.m. at Meaden Hall at the Salt Spring Island Legion.
An ADU is defined as a distinct and separate unit from a principal dwelling structure, with its own cooking and washroom facilities and its own entrance. The current version of Bylaw 530 would add ADUs as a permitted use in limited and specific zoned areas — three residential zones (R7, R8 and R9), rural (R), rural uplands zones (RU1 and RU3), the rural islet zone (Ri), a comprehensive development zone (CD3) and a forestry zone (F1). ADUs in these zones would be subject to further restrictions before being approved; in addition to needing to satisfy all code requirements for a building permit, ADUs will be limited in size — 56 square metres on lots less than 1.2 hectares and 90 square metres on larger lots — and cannot be located within a Community Well Capture Zone.
Current language in the bylaw specifically excludes recreational vehicles and dwellings on wheels; moreover, any ADU to be located within a community water system needs in-writing confirmation from the operator that the site has sufficient water capacity to supply it.
These and a host of other regulations suggest not every property within the referenced zones may find itself eligible for an ADU should the bylaw pass. Trustee Laura Patrick has called the measure “low-hanging fruit” in the discussion of ways to increase affordable housing on Salt Spring, and questions remain about how many property owners would pursue the opportunity — and how much new housing the bylaw would actually create.
Regardless, public engagement is — once again — the next step, according to trustees, who hope for robust attendance at the open houses. Notably, despite numerous engagement events and a hearing last year, a new formal public hearing will be required prior to the bylaw’s final approval. That hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Bylaw 530, originally crafted at the urging of the Housing Action Program Task Force and shaped through several public events and LTC amendments, is meant to help ease Salt Spring’s rental supply crunch by permitting a new housing option.
The combination of substantial public concern and direct opposition from Tsawout First Nation seems to have been pivotal in the LTC’s decision last year to pause its process.
While acknowledging the broader housing crisis, Tsawout First Nation representatives wrote it believed the proposed referral would significantly change the “environmental trajectory” of Salt Spring Island by pushing the living capacity past the standards originally outlined in the island’s official community plan.
“The island does not have the capacity to increase living conditions without threatening the environmental stability of our traditional territory,” read the letter.
Staff reports, public correspondence, the current text and other information about Bylaw 530 are available online at islandstrust.bc.ca/island-planning/salt-spring/projects/.